Kamryn Pettway (above) is a redshirt sophomore running back.
From 1990-2008 Auburn is 87-1 in games the Auburn Tigers score at least 30 points during regulation. From 2009-2016 Auburn is 51-4, which is a strong indicator of poor defensive play. Thankfully, this season Auburn is putting up defensive numbers we have not witnessed since the 2008 season.
The statistical goal is to score on 33% of your offensive possessions. From 1992-2008 Auburn compiled a record of 95-6-1 (.936) when doing so. Under Gus Malzahn Auburn is 54-7 (.885), when scoring on at least 33% of its offensive possessions. Again, the additional losses have more to do with an inadequate defense than offense.
Staying on the theme of scoring on 33% of their possessions, the Tigers from 1992-2008, scored on 33% of their possessions, which included 24.1% touchdowns. Under Gus Malzahn, the Auburn offense has scored on 42.8% of their offensive possessions, including a TD percentage of 32.0%.
How frequently has Auburn scored on 33% of their possessions during a game? From 1992-2008, Auburn did it 49.5% of the time. Under Malzahn the Auburn offense has done it 70.9% of the time. Bottom line, his offense has given Auburn a far great opportunity of winning than prior to his arrival. What Auburn has lacked until this season under Malzahn was a defense capable of winning football games.
For those focusing on the third quarter, Bobby Petrino's offense has scored 77 points in the first period, 100 points during the second quarter and 61 points during the third quarter. Is this a lull or defect in his offense this season? No. The bottom line is scoring enough points to win the game, regardless of what quarters the points arrive. During Auburn's previous 10 conference games prior to the Mississippi State game, Auburn averaged 21 points per game. If someone told me prior to the MSU game Auburn would score 38 on the road against Mississippi State, I would have taken it in a heart beat. I have no doubt if the score was 35-28 at halftime, Malzahn-Rhett Lashlee would have continued being aggressive on offense during the second-half.
The Mississippi State Game:
For those focusing on the second half of the Mississippi State game, it is important to remember the context of the game. Malzahn's No. 1 priority as head coach is to make sure the team wins, period. Leading 35-0 at halftime the mission was basically accomplished (Since 1981, Auburn is now 95-0, when leading by 17 or more points at halftime). The lead came primarily from a pass offense that generated five impact plays. Once the lead was there, it should have been expected to see a conservative approach.
Regardless of the conservative approach, which is basically the "identity" of this current offense, the second half still came down to execution. It also came down to the offense being on the field seven times during the first-half and only four times during the second half.
The first possession of the second half produced a first down, but stalled after White was sacked on 3rd down.
The second possession also netted a first down, but the drive ended after Pettway was ruled to have fumbled the ball.
The third drive began inside the Auburn 2-yard line. There was no way Lashlee was going to pass the ball in this situation with a 35-7 lead.
The fourth and final drive of the game resulted in a score and included a vertical pass of 19 yards to extend the drive.
So how do we define a lull or offensive drought?
Statistically speaking, the goal is to score on 33% of your possessions during a game. Auburn scored on 45.4 percent against Mississippi State so mission accomplished.
I define an offensive drought as Auburn failing to score on at least four consecutive possessions. That never occurred during the Mississippi State game.
From 1992-2016 Auburn has averaged 8.6 offensive droughts per season. The 1998 team had the most with 15 followed by the 2008 team that suffered 13. It breaks down to an average of 9.4 droughts per season without Gus Malzahn and 6.4 per season with Malzahn. The 2016 Auburn offense currently has three this season and they occurred against Clemson and Texas A&M.
From 1998-2008 Auburn has suffered 24 offensive droughts of at least 10 consecutive possessions without a score. Under Malzahn (seven seasons), Auburn has suffered only six of those droughts, with the last one occurring during the 2014 season. The longest drought during the past two seasons was seven consecutive possessions without a score.
Through half the regular season over 74 percent of the total yardage gained on offense has been compiled by an underclassmen. This is a young offense still working towards establishing their identity as a unit. I thought they did an exceptional job of overcoming the interception on their first possession to bounce back with 28 points and 335 yards of offense during the first-half of the MSU game.
Red zone offense and first down play selection have been my two primary concerns offensively.
Auburn has been very efficient and successful throwing the ball beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, but has not been aggressive in calling more of them. There has been a slight increase since Rhett Lashlee took over the offense and, hopefully, that trend will continue.
For the season Auburn has scored on 41.1 percent of its possessions, slightly down from the 44.9 percent during the 2013 season.
The running game is better than 2015, but it won't be explosive because of the style of RB's Auburn has this season. The Tigers' major explosive plays will have to come from the passing game. We witnessed the ability during the first half of the MSU game, but Malzahn was content with a 35-0 lead. Like it or not, his job is to win games and "style" points only matters when you are battling to be in the "top-4" of the polls. For now, I just want to see an offense that is consistent and executes well. This defense is good enough to hold everyone Auburn faces to under 30 points. From 2001-2008,Auburn won 37% of its games when held to 20 points or less. From 2009-2016 Auburn has won only 19% under the same situation.
I'm certainly not advocating sitting on a 14-point lead at halftime, but a 35-0 lead is a totally different situation. I have no doubt the Auburn coaches would have liked to see better execution from the second half, but I'm sure they were very pleased with how the offense performed to build their 35-0 lead. It will be a good learning point for some of the young players that likely were not giving it 100% during the second-half after building a huge lead by halftime. It is nice to learn such a valuable lesson during a 24 point victory on the road in conference play.